The NRPA Innovation Awards recognize and honor the latest advancements in the field of parks and recreation. These awards showcase the inspiring park and recreation agencies that have improved and empowered their communities through innovative practices in park design, health and wellness, conservation, and social equity.

Applications will be available in January 2019.



NRPA Innovation Awards: Health

Innovation in Health Award*

This award recognizes a park and recreation agency leading an innovative project that fosters a culture of health in their community.

2018 Awardee: Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, Alhambra, CA

Parks After Dark (PAD) is an award-winning program that was launched at three Los Angeles County (County) parks in 2010, as the prevention component of the County's Gang Violence Reduction Initiative and was successfully expanded to 23 parks in 2017, and 33 in 2018. PAD's target population is communities with high rates of poverty, violence, obesity and systems involved youth. The goals of PAD are to decrease violence and increase social cohesion, physical activity, perceptions of safety, collaboration among stakeholders to offer services at parks, access to recreational programming and services and cost savings for the County.



NRPA Innovation Awards: Conservation

Innovation in Conservation Award*

This award recognizes a park and recreation agency leading an innovative project that creates localized solutions for addressing global or regional environmental challenges.

2018 Awardee: Forest Preserves of Cook County, IL

The Forest Preserves of Cook County's Conservation Corps is mobilizing people to help restore nature to health and train the next generation of conservation leaders and forest preserve advocates. The Conservation Corps provides paid, hands-on experiences to participants from across Cook County, including those with barriers to employment. Studies have shown that the conservation field in the U.S. suffers from a lack of racial diversity. To address this disparity the Conservation Corps works to engage people of all backgrounds in pursuing careers in conservation and exposes many participants to nature based recreation activities for the first time.


NRPA Innovation Awards: Social Equity Award

Innovation in Social Equity Award*

This award recognizes a park and recreation agency leading an innovative project that improves access to the benefits of local parks and recreation for everyone in the community, no matter the color of their skin, age, income level or ability.

2018 Awardee: Chicago Park District, Chicago, IL

Night Out in the Parks provides free accessible arts programming to citizens across Chicago. With over 2,000 events and over 2,000 local artists employed, Chicagoans are using parks to create art and build community. The My Chi Parks mobile app provides instant access to every Night Out event across the city in over 250 parks. Developed in 2012 to bring quality cultural programming to neighborhood parks, it continues to grow and respond to communities' needs. Through Night Out in the Parks neighbors dance together, laugh together and sing together, proving that the arts are a catalyst for strong, safe communities.


NRPA Innovation Awards: Park Design

Innovation in Park Design Award*

This award recognizes a park and recreation agency that manages a unique park or facility that embraces innovative technology, strategies or programs to improve their community.

2018 Awardee: Town of Glastonbury, Glastonbury, CT

Glastonbury Riverfront Park meets the diverse needs of the community and fulfills the vision created 30+ years ago. The park facilities result from careful planning, successful partnerships, innovative approaches, supportive elected officials, dedicated professional staff and an engaged citizenry. The project was facilitated by seven separate land acquisitions, remediating an abandoned tank farm, partnerships with the State and local service organizations, $13M in public financing, and over $450,000 in partner contributions. Facilities include boat launches, an 18,500 s.f. boathouse/banquet facility, multi-purpose trails, children's playground, lighted basketball court, athletic fields, outdoor skating area, and a dog park. A true success story!


NRPA Innovation Awards: Best in Innovation

NRPA Best in Innovation Award

This award recognizes the best of the best in park and recreation innovation. The winners of the four innovation categorical awards faced-off in a public vote to determine which one of the four should receive the Best in Innovation Award. 

2018 Awardee: Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, Alhambra, CA

Voting for the NRPA Best in Innovation Awards took place from June 25-28, 2018.


*NRPA members should only submit one application per project for the innovation award that best fits that project.

The Innovation Awards were new in 2018 and replace the former Agency Awards. The Innovation Awards are presented at the annual Best of the Best ceremony during the NRPA Annual Conference

View previous award winners.

For additional information contact


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